WRAL Investigates

Group exposes those who lie about military service, awards

Posted June 15, 2010

— Larry Bailey, a retired captain in the Navy Seals, said he hates “anyone who lies,” especially about their military service and awards. He occasionally helps a group called the P.O.W. Network check Navy Seal records and expose people who fib.

“If it’s just someone who says they’re a Marine who fought in Vietnam, I don’t worry about that,” said Bailey, who ran Navy Seal training for three years during his career. “If you’re looking for monetary gain or extraordinary personal attention and privilege, I’ll go after you in a heart beat.”

The operators of the P.O.W. Network say they get requests to research people every day. They simply write a letter to the National Personnel Records office and file a Freedom of Information Act request. When they discover imposters, they post it on the P.O.W. website, which features about 3,700 names so far.

People who lie about their service record do it for a number of reasons, according to P.O.W. operators. It could be ego, military benefits or sometimes because of mental illness. Whatever the reason, it’s now easier to file criminal charges.

That’s what happened to Michael Delos Hamilton, a former Marine who raised suspicions after he spoke at a ceremony honoring veterans at the Jacksonville/Onslow County Vietnam Veterans Memorial on April 24. He is facing federal charges for lying about his medals and service.

“What’s really sad is that he dishonored every name on that Vietnam wall when he stood up there and claimed to be somebody that he’s not. There’s 58,000 names on that wall. If it was possible, they all turned over in their grave,” said Sgt. Major Joe Houle, a retired veteran.

Houle was at the event and said he knew Hamilton had already been on probation for lying about his military service once before. The current charges against Hamilton are still pending.

The Stolen Valor Act, signed into law in 2006, makes it easier to file charges for fake claims, but it's also under fire in the courts for violating free speech.

Bailey says the proof is in the paperwork called a DD-214. Where he lives in Beaufort County, even a former police chief's claims of being a Navy Seal were called into question.

“I told the commissioners, after some checking, there’s no way this guy has ever been a Seal,” Bailey said.

Sixty-six people have been charged under the Stolen Valor Act. It's unclear how many were specifically charged with lying about their military record and honors because sections of the law were in place prior to 2006.


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  • RDUTEC Jun 16, 2010

    As a Nam vet, I draw up every time I hear someone talk about "how we did it in Nam". Very few of the Nam vets talk about "how we did it". BTW the only Hero's from Viet Nam are the one's with their names on "THE WALL" in DC. RIP HERO'S

  • OGE Jun 16, 2010

    Who cares if these people want to be a legend in their own mind.

  • robster Jun 16, 2010

    So true...those combat vets that I knew when I served hardly ever talked about it and shied from those that were super-motivated to "go to war"...they just wanted to do their job and go home quietly...

  • dsalter Jun 16, 2010

    I spent 3 years during Viet Nam, but went to the Dominican Republic instead, during the intervention in 1965. There was a civil war going on there when we arrived, and even though I was a mechanic, we spent as much time on guard duty as we did working on vehicles. We were part of the Organization of American States peacekeeping team and were awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary medal for the deployment. But my hat's off to the actual combat veterans. Those who are deployed for missions to search and destroy who are engaged frequently and have hidden stories that will haunt them to the grave. They deserve all the accolades they get....and then some. With the job I have now, I deal with Ft. Bragg Special Ops troops everyday. The stress on them and their families is unbelievable. They earn every dollar and every amount of respect they get. But I also salute the other ones who serve there too. The IED (roadside bombs) are a threat to every individual who places a foot on soil in that reg

  • edbuck51 Jun 16, 2010

    we were not heroes in Nam, just 18-19 yo kids doing our job and standing up for our country

  • slayerhil Jun 15, 2010

    What a pathetic group of men. If they want to be heroes so bad, then ship them on over to the middle east and let them actually earn it.

  • WRALblows Jun 15, 2010

    No one I've ever known to really serve in combat speaks much about it. This has brought me to suspect anyone that goes on and on about their military service is lying. It must be sad to have such an empty life that they need to make one up.

  • silverflash Jun 15, 2010

    I did my time, 4 years US Army active during gulf war as a lab tech. I was asked if I wanted to go to Saudi and I said noooo waaaay. I was 1 year from ETS and college was waiting! Kudos to those who did go though to make the sacrifice so that others didn't have to.

  • Worland Jun 15, 2010

    I'd love to take a gander at my brother-in-law's DD-214... 3-year Marine cook who constantly boasts about his combat exploits during Desert Storm. He forgets... I was there too.

  • geosol Jun 15, 2010

    "Real heroes don't brag about their service. They don't need to. All gave some, some gave all. Honor the fallen, don't disgrace the uniform." - gnewsome1

    Awesome comment! Thanks!